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Pre-game: Hurdle discusses draft, evaluation

Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates
Clint Hurdle

As the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, there is a lot on Clint Hurdle’s plate. So when it comes to the MLB First Year Player Draft, which begins tonight at 7:00 PM EST, Hurdle gets most of his information second hand from Pirates scouting director Joe DelliCarri, who actually played for Hurdle on the Single-A St. Lucie Mets in 1989.

But even though Hurdle likely won’t immediately have a strong opinion of whichever talented young ballplayer the Pirates take with the 12th pick later this evening, the 59-year old baseball lifer is familiar with the ups and downs associated with the draft.

“There are going to be some kids who get drafted low that are going to finish high,” Hurdle said. “And there are going to be some kids drafted high that are going to finish low.”

With the last part of his statement, Hurdle sheepishly raised his hand because he himself was a top prospect, once drafted ninth overall by the Kansas City Royals in 1975 and dubiously coined “This Year’s Phenom” by Sports Illustrated in 1978, before ultimately failing to live up to those lofty expectations.

But even after all of those years, Hurdle still remembers the day that he was drafted. Several teams had expressed interest in selecting Hurdle with the first pick, which caused a buzz in his small hometown of Merritt Island, Florida. And each time the rotary phone mounted to Hurdle’s wall rang; Clint would rush to pick up the receiver.

“The most interesting call was from the Oakland Athletics,” Hurdle said. “He said, ‘If we draft you, here’s our offer. If you’re still interested, call us and let us know.’ That was a bit of a bummer.”

Hurdle wasn’t selected by Oakland. Instead, he received a call from Royals scout Bill Fischer, who had closely followed Hurdle all the way through high school. Hurdle would eventually sign and make his major league debut a little more than two years later.

For the young athletes looking to be drafted tonight, this process could not be any more different. The first two rounds of this year’s draft will air tonight on MLB Network. Those drafted will see their collegiate or high school accomplishments displayed in a neatly-cut video package as journalists and former major leaguers gush over their potential.

Yet, for as much as baseball has changed, Hurdle said that properly evaluating prospects is just about consistent communication. Once the Pirates complete their draft picks tonight, Hurdle will receive profiles of the draftees.

During the All-Star Break, Hurdle will travel down to extended spring training to see those players in person. Otherwise, Hurdle will rely on his minor league managers, who he communicates with on a weekly basis, to deliver reports.

“You listen to people, you use your eyes, and then you follow up and ask questions,” Hurdle said.